Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hueffer, Francis

HUEFFER, FRANCIS (more correctly Franz Hüffer) (1845–1889), musical critic, was born on 22 May 1845 at Münster, where his father held various municipal offices. After attending the lyceum and academy of his native place, he studied philology at Leipzig in 1866, and at Berlin from 1867 to 1869. He took the degree of Ph.D. at the university of Göttingen in July 1869, when his dissertation on the troubadour; Guillem de Cabestanh, attracted favourable notice. It was subsequently published at Berlin (1869). While at Berlin he found time to devote much attention to music, for which he had a natural predilection, and joined the then very limited number of ardent admirers of Wagner. In 1869 he came to London, and soon engaged in literary work. His first essays appeared in the ‘North British Review,’ the ‘Fortnightly Review,’ and the ‘Academy.’ He became assistant editor of the last about 1871, and in that year his appreciative critique in the ‘Academy’ of Swinburne's ‘Songs before Sunrise’ attracted much attention. In 1874 the publication of his remarkable book, ‘Richard Wagner and the Music of the Future’ (reprinted from the ‘Fortnightly Review’), placed him in a foremost place among musicians of advanced views. Some five years later he succeeded Mr. O. J. F. Crawfurd as editor of the ‘New Quarterly Magazine,’ to which he had been a frequent contributor. About the same time his connection with the ‘Times’ began, and in the autumn of 1879 he succeeded J. W. Davison [q.v.] as musical critic to that journal. In 1878 appeared his learned treatise on Provençal literature, entitled ‘The Troubadours; a History of Provençal Life and Literature in the Middle Ages,’ which led to his election to the ‘Felibrige’ society, and he delivered lectures on the same subject at the Royal Institution in 1880. He was naturalised in January 1882 (Parliamentary Papers).

Hueffer edited a series of biographies of 'The Great Musicians,' writing for it a life of Wagner, which formed the opening volume (1881; 2nd edit. 1883). In 1883 he wrote the libretto for Dr. Mackenzie's `Colomba;' in 1885 the words for Mr. F. H. Cowen's cantata, 'The Sleeping Beauty;' the libretto for Dr. Mackenzie's 'Troubadour' in 1886; and a skilful translation of Boito's 'Otello' (for Verdi's music) in 1887. He was also for some time correspondent of the French musical paper, 'Le Menestrel,' and wrote various articles in Grove's 'Dictionary,' Mendel's 'Musik-Conversations-Lexicon,' and the earlier part of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica' (9th edit.) In 1883 he edited a short-lived magazine called 'The Musical Review,' and in 1886 'The Musical World.' He died after a short illness on 19 Jan. 1889, and was buried on the 24th at the St.Pancras cemetery, East Finchley. He married in 1872 Catherine, younger daughter of Ford Madox Brown, the painter.

Besides the works mentioned above he published: 1. 'Musical Studies,' collected essays from the 'Times' and elsewhere, 1880; an Italian translation appeared at Milan in 1883. 2. 'Italian and other Studies,' 1883. 3. 'Half a Century of English Music,' 1889 (published posthumously). He also wrote critical memoirs for the Tauchnitz editions of Rossetti's 'Poems,' 1873, and his `Ballads and Sonnets,' 1882; edited `The Dwale Bluth' and other literary remains of Oliver Madox-Brown, with memoir (in collaboration with W. M. Rossetti), 1876; and translated Guhl and Koner's 'Life of the Greeks and Romans,' 1875, and `The Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt,' 1888.

Like Wagner, he was an ardent disciple of Schopenhauer, and his purely literary works show a good deal of the philosophical spirit. As a musical critic, although he wrote in a language not his own, and on a subject for which he had no exceptional natural qualifications, he yet filled a post of great responsibility with success, if not with distinction, and he exerted an elevating influence on the art of his time.

[Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, iv. 680, 819; Times, 21 and 25 Jan. 1889; information from W. M. Rossetti, esq., Mrs. Hueffer, and Professor Hermann Hüffer of Bonn; personal knowledge.]

J. A. F. M.